New York

Irene Krugman

Bertha Urdang Gallery

In my ceaseless struggles with arithmetic, I remember having tremendous difficulty assessing the value of proportions. However arranged, numbers to me were flat, singular descriptions of who was older, who was bigger, and what was more. Though my senses knew to opt for 1/2 of a candy bar over 1/4, written on a piece of paper, 1/4, having the largest integer as its denominator, seemed to be the larger measure. I was clearly not a pro at this relational game.

Graduated images on a plane will be read by our eyes as receding because we have been subliminally taught to translate the illusion into the perception of distance. Irene Krugman’s wall-reliefs and paintings use the accepted illusions of space and scale as a ploy for the works’ ultimate dismantling.

The wall-piece Desert Set, Reciprocal is a series of four gradually decreasing landscape/chair-back constructions, each containing a 1/4 scale model of itself. This classic formation should be perceived as moving back into space, but because the smallest internal form enclosed in the largest landscape/chair-back figure is equal in objective size to the smallest landscape/ chair-back form, the relationship between all enclosing and enclosed components is reciprocal and therefore cancels out the illusion of space.

Pitting illusion against the reality of the two-dimensional plane, in the wall-reliefs which use heat-transfer photography, Krugman juxtaposes the photograph as a record of reality against the tangible existence of the plane on which it has been mounted. The plywood pieces and markings which appear on the photograph’s mounting paper are apparent in the photograph as well—a ticklish congruence, since the photograph’s subject is a sheet of mounting paper. Both mounting paper and photograph have been given the same additions, making both reality and illusion not the property of the materials, but the property of the artist, whose hand’s shadow often appears in the photographs.

Krugman’s paintings also examine the fictional aspect of perspective. She disrupts the correlation between size, scale and distance by having the recurring chair-back construction (part of a graduated progression on a painted white canvas) equal in size to one which is, in the visual language of spatial illusion, “closer” to us. The system is totally broken in a white painting where the square dowels, used throughout her work, seemed to explode over the canvas. Humorously enough, however, the arrangement of the scattered dowels, like a balancing chair act in the circus, seems to hover in—of all things—space. The joy of Irene Krugman’s work lies in the dos-à-dos she sets in motion between vision, illusion, intellect and humor.